Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer
May 4, 2021 8:54 AM Subscribe
How Humanity Gave Itself an Extra Life [ungated link] - "Between 1920 and 2020, the average human life span doubled. How did we do it? Science mattered — but so did activism." (NYT, PBS)
The best estimates suggest that as many as 100 million people died from the Great Influenza outbreak that eventually circled the globe. To put that in comparison, roughly three million people have died from Covid-19 over the past year, on a planet with four times as many people. There was another key difference between these two pandemics. The H1N1 outbreak of 1918-19 was unusually lethal among young adults.also btw...
[W]hat followed was a century of unexpected life...
How did this great doubling of the human life span happen? When the history textbooks do touch on the subject of improving health, they often nod to three critical breakthroughs, all of them presented as triumphs of the scientific method: vaccines, germ theory and antibiotics. But the real story is far more complicated. Those breakthroughs might have been initiated by scientists, but it took the work of activists and public intellectuals and legal reformers to bring their benefits to everyday people. From this perspective, the doubling of human life span is an achievement that is closer to something like universal suffrage or the abolition of slavery: progress that required new social movements, new forms of persuasion and new kinds of public institutions to take root. And it required lifestyle changes that ran throughout all echelons of society: washing hands, quitting smoking, getting vaccinated, wearing masks during a pandemic.
- How Covid Upended a Century of Patterns in U.S. Deaths [ungated link] - "The U.S. death rate in 2020 was the highest above normal ever recorded in the country — even surpassing the calamity of the 1918 flu pandemic." (NYT) Malaria vaccine trial raises hopes of beating disease - "Jab developed by University of Oxford team proves 77% effective in Burkina Faso mid-stage tests." (FT)